The politics of decentralization in Chile: Allende and Pinochet
Decentralization, in practice, is never a value free process. National leaders try to target the process so as to empower political groups sympathetic to them. But since decentralization involves shifts in the power structure of society, the outcomes of the process may not be those desired by the leaders who set the process in motion. Salvador Allende attempted a decentralization process aimed at empowering grass roots organizations traditionally supportive of the Chilean Left. With time, local organizations became increasingly autonomous from, and critical of, the Allende government. Under Augusto Pinochet, privatization was used as much for economic as for political reasons. It was a means of returning to the upper class some of the power it had lost. It enabled the Pinochet regime to maintain that support of the upper class. The flaw of this decentralization process was that in its attempt to empower a minority of the Chilean population it alienated the majority. In the only free elections held under Pinochet he was defeated.